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This book introduces a visual approach to communication and problem solving in the construction industry. From two- and three-dimensional hand drawings to sophisticated computer-generated drawings, this text covers all major methods of construction graphics as tools of communication. The underlying premise is that such drawings give construction professionals the ability to quickly and easily communicate complex concepts to a variety of team members. In addition, redundancies and misunderstandings can be avoided when everyone sees the same information.Key features include:
• Excellent illustrations show how a visual approach can be used to analyze problems, visualize solutions, exchange ideas, and transform rough concepts into usable field instructions.
• Use of an example construction project to apply the concepts in a real-world setting.
• Discussion of the interaction necessary to define and solve specific problems that have no obvious solution or predetermined standard method of procedure.
1. Seeing From Dimension to Dimension.
2. The Basics of Field Drafting.
3. Field Drafting.
4. The Field Drawings.
5. Construction Details in 3D.
6. Preconstruction Modeling.
The goal of Graphic Communications in Construction is to introduce these constructors to a visual approach to problem solving using drawings to focus the efforts of various specialists on the resolution of a single problem. Drawings have the power to build consensus and teamwork for one simple reason: they minimize redundancies and misunderstandings because they allow everyone to see the same information.
I believe a drawing, as visual information, will be even more valuable to constructors in the near future. First, construction drawings have always been the primary interface for construction information. Second, the rapid advances occurring in networked and Web-based graphical information systems mean there is more data being generated than can be put into practice efficiently. In a fast-paced age of iconic integration, drawings give constructors the ability to communicate quickly complex ideas to various team members.
At the same time, one of the fundamental premises of this book is that basic two- and three-dimensional hand-drawingswill continue to be important in this newly competitive digital age. The ability to draw by hand involves understanding details such as line weight, lettering, dimensioning, and scales. These are the basic ingredients in a graphical construction information system that must be understood to use drawings effectively as communications tools.
Two-dimensional plans, elevations, and sections are a fundamental part of construction drawings and are indispensable for communicating layout dimensions and information to workers in the field. Three-dimensional drawings also bridge a visualization gap for unskilled workers, lay clients, and other nonprofessionals.
Being able to draw these drawings is important because I believe that even the roughest arrangement of lines scratched in the dirt of a construction site can convey lots of information that cannot be expressed in any other way. It also means that you can grab a pencil or a soapstone and mark descriptive lines on a piece of drywall or some odd scrap of wood or metal. With such materials, your message is not only immediately portable but it continues to be available for ongoing reference and can be added to or modified as the work progresses—sometimes in very interesting and imaginative ways. Most important, when those same spontaneous lines are applied to a piece of paper in even the roughest form, they can be dated, faxed, copied, mailed, and filed to confirm an understanding, document a conversation, or act as a written record. Rough field drawings have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in miscommunications and can be very useful in helping to initiate formal change orders or to justify back charges during final negotiations.
A second premise of this book is that the process of producing a design for a building, or any other object for that matter, follows a specific sequence of disclosures and discoveries. This process begins with a programmatic description of the problem, rough schematic sketches of possible solutions, scaled preliminary drawings that can be used to estimate cost and assess general feasibility, and engineered drawings with details and specifications that are as important to preconstruction and project planning as they are to the actual work.
Adapted from the work of architects and engineers, this sequential process is the core of a visual approach to problem solving. This visual approach uses drawings to analyze problems, visualize solutions, graphically exchange ideas, establish common understandings, and transform rough concepts into usable field instructions. With this approach, a team of professionals can see the same problem, collaborate to define solutions, and graphically record the resulting agreements.
When this interaction and exchange of ideas flow fluidly and are properly managed, the result is almost always a well-coordinated and clearly composed set of instructions. What follows is a straightforward construction project with minimal requests for clarification and a clear understanding of scope and values. Most important, the final outcome is almost always a sound building for our customers, something I honestly believe everyone wants to see in every aspect of a construction project—no matter how tense things sometimes get on a jobsite.
This book is therefore more about using drawings to communicate and solve problems than it is about either the drawings or the problems themselves. The learning strategy is to present something that is real enough to represent the complexities of an actual construction project, while at the same time keeping things simple enough to be useful to a wide range of interests and drawing skills.
The challenge is to set up this interaction with a problem that might be found on a real jobsite. This is not easy, because in actual practice a real building usually means a large one. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time to solve the problems associated with a large building, and not all of these problems can be figured out in one or two drafting classes.
Most constructors will never need to draw a full set of construction drawings, and many have absolutely no interest in understanding how to do so. Setting aside the growing trend toward design-build and single-source project delivery, this perception misses the role of the drawings as a problem-solving and management tool. Drawings are forms of communication that can be indispensable to defining a problem and reaching a workable solution. Larger buildings also have their own particular construction methods. They use special techniques for assembly and detailing that take years of field experience to learn and thousands of dollars in consulting fees to put into practice. This is not a simple exercise for even a college-level drafting class.
As a result, the traditional way to teach drafting is usually to assign a basic woodframe building and walk through the production of the drawings intended to explain its construction. For some, this includes designing the building and drafting base sheets such as the floor plans, elevations, and sections. And though some determined students will push beyond these basic drawings into details, schedules, and specifications, the learning experience is often reduced to a series of isolated exercises. Sometimes the students will lay out the stairs or a few wall sections, but these drawings will not reach the level of detailed complexity that constructors regularly face in the field.
Another problem is that this traditional approach gives the student a feel only for woodframe construction. Some argue that woodframing is out of date for modern construction professionals and try to mix lightweight steel framing and masonry techniques into drafting assignments. After all, most of the woodframing techniques found in a large custom residential home are so standardized that they do not need to be explained to an experienced contractor.
Drafting these simple buildings in isolation is problematic also because it suggests that individuals put together construction drawings without input from clients, engineers, contractors, and other consultants. As a classroom exercise, they imply that design professionals sit down by themselves to draft the drawings as fast as they can without consulting, communicating, or coordinating the information on those drawings with all the people who must contribute their insight and skills to a design process. This approach misses the potential of a drawing to integrate visually the input of the design and construction teams, and the resulting drawings are often fraught with frustrations for everyone concerned.
This book therefore specifically attempts to set up the interaction necessary to define and solve a problem that has no obvious solution or predetermined construction. It begins with what at first seems like a simple building but quickly grows into a three-dimensional puzzle with unlimited alternatives. The goal is to provide a detailed example to illustrate one possible solution to a set of verbal requirements presented in this book. The problems embodied in this example reflect many of the same conditions found in a large multistory building, including almost all the structural forces one might find in complex construction such as cantilevers, moment and shear connections, suspension rods and tension, and various foundation loads.
The result is a building with several unusual conditions, including curtain wall panels, atypical roofing details, weatherproofing problems, and a collection of difficult structural relationships. It also requires shop drawings for its steel and precast concrete members, as well as an assortment of submittals to verify finishes and field conditions.
It's also possible to go beyond the work in this book. For example, the building could be value engineered to improve its constructibility. Although few have found a more practical solution, you could use such an effort to explore alternate assemblies, structural systems, or modifications that still meet the basic program requirements.
It's also possible to study electrical and mechanical designs that incorporate solar power, geothermal transfers, and robotics. One group of students even went so far as to build their version of the trainer to see if it could really be constructed according to their drawings.
Any approach to problem solving will inevitably lead to some deadends or major revisions. That's the point of an investigative process. If the channels of communication are kept open to different points of view, however, revisions to the construction drawings or changes to the entire design become an integral part of the visual process. Thus, the drawings represent the changes and allow everyone to share a common vision because of the ongoing interaction. Each exchange is an opportunity for fresh input from a new perspective, which means the potential always exists to improve the quality of the information on the current drawings.
The outcome is a visual consensus represented in a set of drawings as a collaborative effort, ready for use as a dynamic communications tool that continues to be fully discovered throughout construction. With new visualization software and hardware just now becoming available, I am certain that construction drawings are destined to evolve into something far more interactive and useful than a fat roll of large print paper and an unreadable stack of specifications. My underlying goal in this book is to introduce some of the skills that may be necessary for future generations of our industry to make this transition.